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Ealing and Northfield

Ealing town centre

Tonight Ealing Times is reporting that the new Westfield shopping centre is not having the impact on Ealing that some feared. Apparently although footfall in Ealing is down 7.4% this is actually better than the national average which is down 11.8%.

I have to say that this comes as no surprise to me. The idea that Ealing’s town centre competes with Westfield is ridiculous. Westfield competes with Brent Cross, Bluewater and the West End. Westfield competes with other “destination” shopping centres, places you go for a serious day out acquiring stuff. Ealing simply asks you to go out and do a few chores. Ealing has been a “recreation” shopping centre for years. That is why Beales couldn’t be made to work.

Back on 7th September I wrote this comment:

You are quite right that Ealing does not look like it can be a successful destination shopping area. You mention Kingston. The last time we tried to shop there we had to queue for a long time to park and then we found that there are very few places where you can get a decent lunch. The Italian we ended up in was mediocre to say the least. Bentalls didn’t have the lights we wanted in stock so we might as well have ordered them online anyway.

What Ealing Broadway and West Ealing can do is service their hinterland. One of the recurring themes in both development proposals and the Tibbalds work is the permeability of the new developments, allowing them to link with the rest of the town centre and parks. The White City development won’t allow you to push the kids on the swings in the park and get a coffee and do a few chores on Saturday morning. In Ealing you can go to the library, get new heels on your shoes, get some dry cleaning done and get some new pants at M&S. You can also get a good range of interesting food – something that White City, Brent Cross and Kingston really don’t provide. Been to Farm W5 lately?

The main customers for the town centre will be its own hinterland – a hinterland bolstered with some housing density in the town centre.

Most retail space is fairly flexible and there is a range of facilities that we need in the town centre that can exploit this space. We should have some density in the town centre and putting shared services on the ground floor of these is pretty sensible. You can can talk about these developments leading to excess retail capacity but if you look at what is proposed for the Daniel site in West Ealing where there is a scheme to put a polyclinic in a newly built, large retail premises you might accept that retail can be pretty much anything.

Coincidentally, tonight your councillors benefited from a repeat of Sir Peter Hall’s lecture on Ealing town centre. In the Q & As afterwards he agreed that the densification of the current sites was sensible. He said he “wouldn’t have any quarrel with the principle of densification in central Ealing”. He agreed that Crossrail was going to change Ealing and that it was “turning into something different – a middle London type of a place”. Hall was clear that there was enough transport land east of the station that could meet transport needs in respect of buses, trains, Tubes, etc. He accepted that there was no particular need for a bus station in the town centre, there were other ways of organising bus services.

I note that fully a week after the planning committee approved the Dicken’s Yard plans SEC have managed to update their home page.

9 replies on “Ealing town centre”

Westfield? Oh haven’t you noticed Phil that there is a recession in progress in the UK?

Retail is not the lever for regeneration.

Your September comments about Daniels are just silly and meaninglesss. ‘Retail can be pretty much anything.’ Well in one sense you might be right – retail could be unoccupied, like the 11 retail units in the Ealing Broadway Centre.

Dickens Yard and Glenkerrin’s Arcadia/Leaf2 will bring a 1,250 flats’ housing estate into the centre of Ealing – and this won’t regenerate the centre either. But it will destroy it.

As a student of Peter Hall at UCL in the 1960s and being fully cognizant of his presentaion tonight, your comments suggest to me that quite a bit of what Peter said perhaps passed over your head.

Full marks Phil for having the nerve to mention the charade that occurred in the Town Hall regarding Dickens Yard last Wednesday. I did notice that you popped in towards the end of proceedings to watch the big screen provide for the Commoners in Victoria Hall. You should be ashamed about what went on in that meeting. Outer Ealing towns’ Councillors voted for something, for which all but one of them demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge about the content of the application.

There’s still a long way to go on Dickens Yard – Boris’s decision, the Secretary of State’s decision, Judicial Review, and of course the Government’s judgement on the Rights of Way extinguishment.

I note that fully a week after the Dickens Yard Planning Committee Meeting, Ealing Council’s web site still does not report on its Home page the most important financial decision taken by Ealing Council in 25 years.

Eric,

Good morning to you too. You must have been in a bad mood last night. Putting your list of small jibes to one side let’s get to the heart of the thing.

Peter Hall gave a very informative lecture which was very fair minded and even handed. He rightly identifies Ealing’s existing Edwardian and Victorian housing estates as being excellent medium density housing which, linked with walkable access to the Ealing Broadway transport hub, provides wonderful homes.

The fact that Hall taught you in your youth does not make you right and it does not make me stupid. Hall made a good case for looking at developing some other areas of the borough by looking at where underdeveloped areas coincide with existing rail/Tube lines. He did not dwell on the difficulty of persuading transport undertakings that they should develop new stations which compromise the journey times of their existing users. Furthermore, he did not make a case against developing the town centre sites. In fact he specifically said in the Q&A session that he “wouldn’t have any quarrel with the principle of densification in central Ealing”. Do you want to argue with what I wrote in my notebook as Hall was speaking?

Hall’s work with the Urban Task Force, where they actually asked people why they liked living in dense town centre sites, shows that these are attractive to younger workers who see themselves living there for a few years before they migrate to larger homes further out. So it seems that some dense developments in Ealing town centre could work very harmoniously with the more established developments a few minutes walk further from the station.

Too many of the people arguing against these developments are not considering the needs of younger, single people who can’t afford a £ million or so for a family house but would gladly buy or rent a small flat in the town centre.

Eric, you denigrate the councillors who made the DY decision last week but you might accept that they approached the issue with an open mind and that they were persuaded that there are wider interests than those that SEC represents.

Phil, your comments on the impact of Westfield on Ealing Broadway are interesting and significant.

They suggest that that market forces have already so repositioned the centre of Ealing in the minds of shoppers that it now caters overwhelmingly for a different category of shoppers from those attracted to White City.

This would seem to be born out by the withdrawal of Philip Green’s Arcadia group’s shops from Ealing in favour of outlets 15 minutes away in Westfield. It also appears to be confirmed by the Council’s own market research which states that Ealing Broadway disproportionately attracts young adults and the retired drawn from social groups D and E.

If we’ve already lost the kind of shopper who’s attracted to White City, it would be surprising if there was a disproportionate further decline in footfall in Ealing Broadway.

James,

I think we are in complete agreement that Ealing has long ceased to be a “destination” shopping centre. That then raises the question what can it be?

There are 100s of services we all want that can be provided by Ealing town centre, and indeed West Ealing. You have only got to see the success of businesses such as Munsons on South Ealing Road or Stuff on Ealing Green to see that an accessible, “recreational” offer is what we should be aiming at. In Ealing you can go to the park, take a library book back, buy a book, read it in a coffee shop, go to the gym, get your bike fixed, buy essentials, buy a present, go to the Post Office, etc, etc. We all do this stuff all the time. The trick for the town centre is to make money out of this low level, continuous type of spending.

Rents have a role to play. Landlords need to accept that Ealing stores are unlikely to attract big ticket spending, this will go to Westfield and the West End. Rents have to be realistic and will only be so once the landlords see that voids will not be filled at unrealistic rent levels.

We will get the town centre we deserve. If you want some of the attractive businesses in the town centre such as Art for Art’s Sake, Ealing Cycles, Baby E and Farm W5 to thrive you need to go and spend in them. If Ealing people don’t use their own town centre they will only have themselves to blame if it disappears.

What is happening in central ealing is inevitable. It is a great pity that the design is not more imaginative. I can forsee that the Uxbridge Road will in time become a row of skyscrapers. I think this should hapen before Hounslow does this along the Great West Road. Also as the population expands it will be much better to have work locally rather than struggling to work elsewhere. So what I want to see is for Ealing to become a desirable business centre rather than a domitory serving simple but useful needs like visiting the library.

Phil,

A richer description of Peter Hall’s presentation now emerges. Densification made up of £500,000/£2,000/month flats will not, however, meet your objectives, my objectives or young peoples’ needs. 30% Affordable Housing doesn’t really cut it.

‘They approached the issue with an open mind’ re approving Dickens Yard. With the greatest respect to all concerned most of them seemed to have left their minds at home, or switched them on ‘standby’, on that evening.

And these ‘wider interests’ were precisely what? The £37 million from St. George perhaps? And/or the use of this money for needy projects.? Now I think these are legitimate interests, but I’d like you to help me here by actually telling us all what these ‘wider interests’ are.

You can’t make Ealing residents use the town centre. You have to create some more compelling reasons for them to go there and stay there for a period of time. I don’t believe St George Dickens Yard will achieve this. If I’m proved right it will be too late to use the 4.4 acres in a more productive way. I of course respect the fact that you have different views – but it appears that 2,500 residents took the trouble to write to the Council to tell them that they didn’t want what you want.

As for small jibes – it’s of course not the sort of behaviour you would stoop to now is it?

Phil
Is there a market research document on the Ealing website which has studied what kind of facilities the public say they would like in Ealing town centre. If so a link would be appreciated. Thank you

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